As in most serious motor vehicle accidents, the curious gathered late this morning at Second Avenue and the 10th Street Bridge, surveying the aftermath of a motorcycle-car crash.
They saw the smashed front end of the motorcycle with pieces strewn about. They noted the 6-inch hole in the car's windshield where the motorcyclist's head impacted. They blanched at the blood pool where the motorcyclist's head struck the pavement after flying over the car. A red hooded sweatshirt was nearby. They expressed sadness for the accident victim.
And then, the word spread throughout the crowd of 15 or so people that the injured motorcyclist wasn't some anonymous person but was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. For the most part, those who were there early on learned that from reporters and photographers who had rushed to the scene after hearing his name broadcast on the police scanner.
"You're kidding me? That was Roethlisberger?" one motorist who saw the aftermath of the accident said to a reporter.
One woman, who saw the accident and rushed to Roethlisberger's aid, likewise was shocked when told it was Roethlisberger.
"That was him? Oh, my! He did say his name was 'Ben,' she said, recalling that the injured man didn't know where he was but knew his name.
"That wasn't him," a man with her argued. For one thing, he didn't appear tall enough, the man said.
But about 15 minutes later, David Lockett, the Steelers spokesman who rushed to the scene and conferred with police officers, confirmed for the media the victim was indeed Roethlisberger.
"He asked where he was at," the eyewitness recalled. "He didn't know what city he was in. He kept trying to get up. I told him to just lie down," the witness said.
Most of the earlier crowd departed but was replaced by about 30 onlookers who came to the scene after hearing about Roethlisberger's accident, hoping his injuries weren't serious, even as they bemoaned his decision not to wear a helmet.
Not far away, firefighters used a firehose to wash away the blood.